ỌMỌ EKO PATAKI FORUM
Lagos: The Imperatives of Cultural Renaissance
From the furthest reaches of the mangroves and the swamps of Badagry in the west to the waters and the vast wetlands of Ikorodu and Epe in the eastern bounds; from the lagoons, the creeks and the waters of Lagos Island lapping the shores of the mighty Atlantic Ocean in its southernmost edge to the tip of Ifako-Ijaiye at its northernmost rim – Lagos State is a rich diversity of geographical and cultural plurality.
Lagos is an integrated melting pot of indigenous people, of ideals, of values of varied traditional ancestry but all coalescing in a happy union of common heritage and sameness of brotherhood.
The Ikorodu people may celebrate Ẹluku, the Eko and the Awori may treasure the Adamu Orisha festival, the Eguns of Badagry may flaunt the beauty of their Zangbeto masquerade, while the Epe people are enriched in their colorful boat regatta festival- there is indeed in all these diverse festivals a unifying commonality of indigenous identity, a proud stirring of native oneness, a vibrant display of common beginnings, a testament of common values and ideals.
Yes, even in these plural traditions, even in these rainbow theatre of multifarious heritage, there is that inherent commitment to a unifying, adhesive bond. There is that formidable cultivation of common vision and hereditary oneness long established since Ogunfunminire, the fearsome , wandering hunter-prince , founded Isheri in a pioneering beginning of what eventually became Lagos.
The Lagosian pivotal ideal of enlightened accommodation, of embrace of strangers, of instinctive friendship and warmth to everyone regardless of ethnic or racial provenance is perhaps the greatest of its ancestral contribution to humanity.
Lagos welcomes all. Lagos exudes in the unique attribute of instinctive cultivation of strangers without the slightest prejudice. It opens its doors without discrimination, without even the least fear of being overwhelmed by outsiders.
It is this spirit of genuine friendship and amity that widened and is still widening the Lagosian commercial landscape since Oba Akinsemoyin (1704- 1749) welcomed the first Portuguese and Brazilian traders to our shores in early 18th century, thereby creating incredible wealth, kindling new opportunities in vast mercantilist ventures.
This is the source of the famous Ẹhingbẹti, the very centre and origin of the Lagosian commercial dominance and immense wealth.
Hence the adage: “Ti oju o ba ti Ẹhingbẹti, oju o ni ti Eko.” Literally : once Ẹhingbẹti is strong and vibrant, the fortunes and riches of Lagos are secured.
But alas, a lot is now amiss. The Lagosian legendary accommodating openness is turning into a curse. Lagosians are now taken for granted, ill-used, trampled upon, shoved aside, increasingly alienated in determining their own collective destinies on their own soil.
What a grievous irony. The owners of the land are brazenly elbowed out , pushed to the sideline, stepped upon by the very strangers they had welcomed to their fold.
From the years of Brigadier Johnson to that of Brigadier Marwa, all those who governed Lagos State gave the indigenes their natural pride of place and presence in the governance of their native soil. The representation in power equation was equitably distributed along the traditional lines of IBILẸ. It was genuinely inclusive of all shades and colors of our multi-rainbow society. The major divisions as represented in the acronym called IBILẸ were all given equal and adequate representation in the governance of their state.
Not anymore !
The 1999 aberration which witnessed the emergence of Mr. Bola Tinubu changed the old order. Lagosians are now reduced to almost second class citizens on their native soil. Their inalienable right of self-determination which is guaranteed by our constitution has been largely voided, dismantled by a solitary usurper.
There is a certain voicelessness everywhere. We speak without prejudice. But we can’t ignore the scary realities. We can’t ignore the truth. The present political and administrative structures in the state are hardly representative of the will, the purpose and the summative identity of our people.
From the acme of gubernatorial power in the Round House in Alausa to the seat of the Deputy Governor, from the three Senatorial incumbents to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the SSG, the HOS – none of the occupiers of these crucial positions is an indigene of Lagos State. Where else in this country can this kind of odious and sickening anomaly happen without an uprising? This flies in the face of equity and fairness. This is not right. This is not just.
Even in the rank and file of the civil service cadre in Alausa, the native Lagosians walk quietly in the shadows, not to be seen, not to be heard, not to be elevated to any consequential reckoning in the affairs of their state. In fact it is now almost a crime to dare to announce in Alausa that you are a Lagosian!
Alas, this is the height of callous, egregious insensitivity. It is almost as if some cruel, indifferent overlord sits somewhere, decreeing venomously that the native Lagosians should be strangled , asphyxiated economically, politically and in all spheres of human endeavors. Like George Floyd, they are kneeling on our necks. And we cannot breathe !
And they are everywhere: taunting, harassing, mocking , restricting the fulfillment of our fundamental rights to determine our collective destiny as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution. From politics to administration and now to our culture, they are mangling our indigenous identity . This evil has gone full circle.
The glaring interference in the Oniru stool has added a new dimension to the deliberate erosion of our cultural identity. One brazen Supremo now decides who becomes a governor and who occupies a royal seat.
We as indigenous natives of Lagos State feel endangered. Surely, we can’t continue like this. The tradition of complicity and silence is over. Let us all rise to defend what is ours by birth, by ancestry and tradition.
From the various Chieftaincy families to the elite in many professions, from the merchants to the traders, the scholars and people in the public service, let us all brace ourselves for a new Cultural Renaissance to start a new course and pave a new path of reawakening our consciousness, rousing our assertiveness in the prompt defiance of evil.
We will continue to speak out against injustice. We will continue to stand against inequity and the well orchestrated plan to reduce indigenous Lagosians to serfdom and impoverishment in their own state.
The American protectiveness of those who have a planted root upon the American soil is quite enlightening. You can never be a President of the United States without being a native son.
The immortal words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States about the indifference to tyranny is very poignant.
“The liberty of democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That , in its essence , is fascism-ownership of government by an individual, or a group.”
The wisdom of Roosevelt sums up most appropriately the present tragedy that is now the lot of Lagosians.
Enough is enough. We find it repugnant and absolutely unacceptable the reduction of Lagos State to a no man’s land where anything goes.
O TO GẸ .
We write on behalf of Ọmọ Eko Pataki Forum.
Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George, FNSE, CON.
Atọna Odua of Yorubaland.
Leader, Ọmọ Eko Pataki Forum.
Rtd Major General Tajudeen Adeniyi Olanrewaju, psc+, ndc.
Former GOC 3rd Armoured Division, Jos.
Trustee, Ọmọ Eko Pataki Forum.
Mr. Gbadebo Dallass, Msc;
Former Managing Director NERFUND.
Former Executive Director, Bank of Industry.
Trustee, Ọmọ Eko Pataki Forum.